It's time we take a step back. We are better than this, America.
In the inflammatory politics of our day, we have forgotten something bigger. We've forgotten that all the way from fledgling colonies to powerful united states, as a people, we agree far more than we disagree.
Democrat or Republican, we want to see the hungry fed, the sick treated, the innovator empowered, the young educated and our country defended. We share the belief that, despite our vices, America holds the potential to do good. The potential to lead a world of dreamers. To entertain, invent and explore. For two centuries, we've done that. One hundred years ago we showed the world how to fly. Only 50 years ago, we sent a man to the moon. And just last week an American immigrant laid out designs that would revolutionize travel again.
We know from studying our own history that action is required to advance a nation. Great pontificators don't change things. We also know from our history that two thoughtful political parties can govern. Rigid ideologies don't propel things.
Despite those lessons, today we are stuck. Our two competing political parties behave like tribal factions. Compromise has been made into a dirty word, despite Thomas Jefferson's advice that, "Every man cannot have his way in all things. If his opinion prevails at some times, he should acquiesce on seeing that of others preponderate at other times. Without this mutual disposition we are disjointed individuals, but not a society."
A country with antiquated immigration policy, decaying infrastructure and gluttonous public debt cannot lead for long. Now we are learning the painful lessons that a country with a government as divided as ours cannot lead at all.
This is where the frustration of the American people lies. While our politicians continue to look for reasons to remain diametrically opposed on party lines, working-class Americans work, worship and socialize shoulder to shoulder with people different than them. But they find a way to get along. Outside of Washington, life is not caucused into Democrats and Republicans trying to devise a strategy to get everything they want. Real people are trying to make ends meet and trying to make a better way for their children. Even if it is not perfect.
Most of us agree that Democrats and Republicans should try harder to work together, to find more common ground. We are even learning it may require more courage to take a step toward our opposition than it does to stand still in defiance. We just cannot seem to agree on who is supposed to take the first step.
The stage is set for someone or some party to take action from a position of strength. Despite being represented by a party in decline, there has never been a better time than now to make the case for smaller government and the conservative cause.
From the NSA's troubles to widespread fraud within the food stamps program, the continued failures of our bloated federal government have presented an historic occasion to advocate for a more decentralized approach to government. For more state level control and experimentation.
But if the Republican Party continues to shrink, caught somewhere in between big free market ideas and silly litmus tests, we will miss the opportunity to lead.
At some point the party in the position of strength has to decide whether it believes hate or love is more likely to inspire our country to new heights. I believe it is love, along with committing to renewed respect for each other.
Already too far entrenched, some people won't consider taking a step back. And that's OK, because in this country we are uniquely entitled to strongly held opinions. But consider the approach that my political mentor, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has taken. When Oklahomans began to question their staunchly conservative senator's closeness to his friend President Barack Obama, Coburn responded, "how better to influence somebody than to love them?"
Weston Wamp is the president of Wamp Strategy and director of communications for Lamp Post Group.